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Forget the Touch Bar, Apple wants to make a MacBook with Touch Keys

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It seems that Apple just can’t leave its laptop keyboards alone. While some of us are still recovering from the The 2010s MacBook butterfly keyboard debacle and reveling in the return of function keys on the MacBook Pro, Apple has already moved on to the next big thing. According to a recent patent filing reported by Patently AppleApple is experimenting with mini-display keys.

The patent describes a keyboard in which each key has a perforated keycap that would reveal illumination from an underlying “string of lights”. Essentially, this keyboard would have keys equipped with micro-LEDs or OLEDs to show the letter or symbol that identifies the key. It is not different from the Touch Bar but for each individual key.

The way MacBook keyboards are now implemented have black plastic keys with cutouts of the designated letter or symbols and a backlight to illuminate the keys in low light conditions (the backlight also bleeds through the surrounding key cutout). The keyboard in Apple’s patent not only allows only the key character to be illuminated, but it could also allow the key character to be changed according to the user’s preference. For example, the keyboard might switch between English and, say, Korean characters or show a completely unique set of keys based on the app you’re using.

origin 1The Optimus Maximus keyboard was released in 2007 and features OLED keycaps.

Art. Lebedev studio

Apple’s patent explains that the keyboard uses its current scissor-switch (whew) mechanism, and it’s possible the company could use aluminum instead of plastic for the keycaps. Apple is constantly filing for patents, many of which are never actually produced for the general public. While this particular patent seems quite feasible, useful, and extremely cool, it could also be expensive to implement.

Back in 2007, the art. Lebedev Studio created the Excellent Maximus desktop keyboard that used OLED in the keys to display key characters and was priced at $1,600. However, a lot has changed in the last 15 years and OLED displays have become much more affordable. However, it’s still set to be more expensive than the plastic keys Apple has now used on its MacBooks.